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Bill Gates: Tech Companies Inviting Government Intervention (axios.com) 150

In an interview with Axios on Tuesday, Bill Gates warned Apple and other tech giants that they risk the kind of nightmarish government intervention that once plagued his Microsoft if they act arrogantly. Axios reports: The big picture: "The companies need to be careful that they're not ... advocating things that would prevent government from being able to, under appropriate review, perform the type of functions that we've come to count on." Asked if he sees instances of that now, Gates replied: "Oh, absolutely." Why it matters: With the Big Tech companies feeling they're suddenly drawing unfair scrutiny, this is Microsoft's co-founder saying they're bringing some of the problems on themselves, by resisting legitimate oversight.
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Bill Gates: Tech Companies Inviting Government Intervention

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  • They'll keep making as much profit, gain as much market share, and reducing/externalising costs as much as they can until someone or something stops them. The only way they understand of avoiding government regulation is lobbying politicians to stop legislation and funding for regulators from going through. It's the government's responsibility to protect the people from abusive practices by corporations. It's time for government to do their job.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      I don't have to buy Google's services; however, I *do* have to buy Uncle Sam's, or be thrown into a cage for refusing.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        I don't have to buy Google's services; however, I *do* have to buy Uncle Sam's, or be thrown into a cage for refusing.

        You have no choice.

        You do consume Google/Alphabet's services and you have no choice in the matter other than staying off the internet and mobile devices.

        And considering what little people like me have dealt with the last decade, government is a MUCH lesser evil - even with Trump in office.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          I mean, that's just patently false.

          Not only is it a legitimate personal choice to avoid Internet services or mobile devices, and not only is it possible to rig software to thwart Google's machinations, but it's also the case that Google hasn't killed millions of lives in pursuit of its goals, or thrown people into cages for making beer (Prohibition) or smoking a leafy plant in the privacy of their own homes, etc.

          You're out of your mind. There is no basis for your analysis. NONE. Your subjective reality is b

          • Government didn't do those things. WE did. You live in a country where the people collectively wanted those things to happen. Don't try to demonize the government for doing what we instructed it to do.

            • by Anonymous Coward

              It may be true that a majority of people supported locking up people who drink. But without a government to enforce that plan, the idea would not have harmed anyone. The government is not responsible for popular bad ideas. However, they are the only way those bad ideas translate into bad outcomes.

              • Nature abhors a government vacuum. It might take the form of a local strong man's death squad or a constitutional monarchy, but if you don't have a government, you're about to have a government.

                So pondering what would happen in the absence of government is not a productive use of time.

              • What the fuck? No one supported jailing the drinkers, only the producers. If your first sentence is so stupid, I stop right there.
        • The nation of China pretty much bans all things Google - and they somehow manage to have close to 1 billion people on the Internet...
      • by Anonymous Coward
        No you don't. You can always move to Somalia. Heck, if you can't afford a plane ticket, I'm sure there are enough people here who would be willing to pitch in. :)
        • The disaster of Somalia is the result of a failed State; the failed government was formed under single-party, "scientific" Communism.

          When it inevitably collapsed into chaos, the culture of Authorianism in Somalia naturally led to the rise of warlords, who (along with their minions) are themselves a form of government yet again (that is, they are a form of organization that allocates resources by coercion rather than by agreement in advance).

          Nevertheless, without the burden of a monstrous State, the people o

    • There is a flip side to that.

      The government wants backdoors in all encryption achemea and a dedicated password for "just" the government to unlock all encryption.

      Just because a company does it doesn't mean it is right and just because the government wants it doesn't make it right.

      You need oversight without blindness. Regulations encourage and help businesses to flourish, and regulations binds government hands when they overstep too.

      • There is a flip side to that.

        The government wants backdoors in all encryption achemea and a dedicated password for "just" the government to unlock all encryption.

        Just because a company does it doesn't mean it is right and just because the government wants it doesn't make it right.

        You need oversight without blindness. Regulations encourage and help businesses to flourish, and regulations binds government hands when they overstep too.

        Precisely!

      • There is a flip side to that.

        The government wants backdoors in all encryption achemea and a dedicated password for "just" the government to unlock all encryption.

        Just because a company does it doesn't mean it is right and just because the government wants it doesn't make it right.

        You need oversight without blindness. Regulations encourage and help businesses to flourish, and regulations binds government hands when they overstep too.

        Personally, I don't count public, opportunistic, high-profile demands for back-doors by poorly informed politicians and admins after every incidence of terrorism "good" regulation. Those people are clearly wilfully ignorant of the implications of what they're asking for. A "good" regulator will consult with qualified experts to see what the feasible options are and what their implications may be.

        On the flip side to that, we've had decades of road safety regulations that have saved millions of lives and pre

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I didn't read the article (naturally), so I could be completely mistaken. From the summary, I thought Gates was referring to encrypted devices Apple say they can't decrypt and won't put in a backdoor for the government.

      And you seem to think it's about something entirely different.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 13, 2018 @01:41PM (#56116625)

    In another words, using encryption that works and not installing back doors every time the NSA asks.
    Gee - thanks Gates, for having our backs. But please go to hell.

    No wonder Microsoft can't be trusted with our data if it was founded by assholes like him.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      In another words, using encryption that works and not installing back doors every time the NSA asks.

      Pretty much this ... people who don't understand math are demanding encryption be something you can poke holes in, which you can't because math doesn't care about such things.

      But if you DO poke holes in encryption, then you've undermined security for everything which relies on it, because the state actors and other people with bad intentions will know there is a hole and attack it.

      This is a thinly veiled "it

      • You can make it secure, or you can make it so the government has access. You can't have both, and it's largely fascists and assholes who demand it.

        One minor quibble - I think you meant to say "fascists and other assholes". Otherwise, the reference to 'assholes' is redundant.

    • Neither companies nor governments are stupid. If my data is not secure in your country because your country demands a "secret backdoor" (read: Secret for 5 minutes, tops, then known to every state actor with deep pockets and/or the gun at the head of the loved one of someone with the key), my data will not be stored in your country. And if your software or hardware enables this, I will not buy your hard- or software.

      And "I" in this case isn't me, Joe Randomluser in his basement but big multinational corpora

  • by yodleboy ( 982200 ) on Tuesday February 13, 2018 @01:43PM (#56116637)

    You can get ahead of it, or you can get run over by it. You may get away with shenanigans for a long time, but once you cross the line, the government hammer is going to hit you hard. Unfortunately a lot of companies have no restraint. They will creep up to the edge of legality, pretty much guaranteeing government intervention.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      You can get ahead of it, or you can get run over by it. You may get away with shenanigans for a long time, but once you cross the line, the government hammer is going to hit you hard. Unfortunately a lot of companies have no restraint. They will creep up to the edge of legality, pretty much guaranteeing government intervention.

      Facebook just sold a US election to the Russians and literally nothing was done by the government.

      What line needs to be crossed before someone will act?

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Citation needed. Advertising is wide open. Are you saying Facebook shouldn't sell ads to Russians?

        • Political advertising is not wide open and subject to various laws, even more so during elections. I know in Canada, I hear about occasional political advertising slap on the wrists from doing something against the rules. A small group in my town bought an ad to highlight some homeless report conclusion and got fined. One fucking ad in a local paper in small town Canada. They just wanted more visibility on the issue. I didn't see it, so can't speak if it appeared as a candidate endorsement. The fine was se
      • by Dog-Cow ( 21281 )

        If that happens to be true, it was the current government who benefitted. Why would you expect anything to be done? Trump is also letting Russia have the ME, because Trump doesn't give even a single shit about what happens there.

  • by Gravis Zero ( 934156 ) on Tuesday February 13, 2018 @02:02PM (#56116781)

    The problem is that the oversight provided turned illegitimate when the government decided to build a mass surveillance apparatus in violation of the fourth amendment of the US constitution. It is the government itself that is driving people to encryption. It's no surprised that trust has been lost in the government when even the local PD will hack your phone and make a complete copy without a warrant. Encryption is a way to ensure your rights because they abdicated themselves of that responsibility. The fact that they have been burned by their own bad behavior is unfortunate but there is nobody else to blame but themselves.

    • The problem is that the oversight provided turned illegitimate when the government decided to build a mass surveillance apparatus in violation of the fourth amendment of the US constitution. It is the government itself that is driving people to encryption. It's no surprised that trust has been lost in the government when even the local PD will hack your phone and make a complete copy without a warrant. Encryption is a way to ensure your rights because they abdicated themselves of that responsibility. The fact that they have been burned by their own bad behavior is unfortunate but there is nobody else to blame but themselves.

      Exactly this.

      When I read the words "legitimate oversight" the first thing I thought was "You mean for the Government? Yes, we certainly DO need legitimate oversight."

  • It's ok to bully the customers into giving you their lunch money, but if you start shaking them down and they come to class in their underpants, teachers might have to intervene.

  • by Jody Bruchon ( 3404363 ) on Tuesday February 13, 2018 @02:08PM (#56116841)
    These words are subject to interpretation. I initially jumped to the conclusion that he means encryption; anyone who knows anything about how good encryption works knows that that's just bullshit because math doesn't abide by human law. Then I thought about Uber's Greyball and similar advanced authority-evading tactics and I realized that there is a legitimate point to be made if that's the context he's referring to instead of encryption.

    Don't you just LOVE ambiguity?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      From the article:

      • Asked for an example, Gates pointed to the companies' "enthusiasm about making financial transactions anonymous and invisible, and their view that even a clear mass-murdering criminal's communication should never be available to the government."
      • When I said he seemed to be referring to being able to unlock an iPhone, Gates replied: "There's no question of ability; it's the question of willingness."
      • That quote seems like a dodge. At its base the encryption question is one of ability, not willingness. i.e. should hardware vendors ship intentionally broken devices? Possibly the only way that should ever happen is through some governmental process. But it may be that he is being more subtle in that he is saying that Apple shouldn't make a big show about resisting the FBI compelling them to hack into their own product and instead make an honest effort and treat it as a government-funded penetration tes
    • by nateman1352 ( 971364 ) on Tuesday February 13, 2018 @02:48PM (#56117157)

      Agreed that Uber Greyball is a legit example, unfortunately Gates is talking about encryption. From TFA: "When I said he seemed to be referring to being able to unlock an iPhone, Gates replied: "There's no question of ability; it's the question of willingness.""

      This is nothing more than Gates taking pot shots at Apple, Microsoft's main rival. Hoping he can gall some prosecutor somewhere in to giving Apple the gift of an anti-trust lawsuit, just like he experienced long ago. Good to see that Gate's colors have not changed.

    • math doesn't abide by human law except in Australia.
      • Whoa, bringing Aussies into this turns everything upside down.
        • Not an issue, just do what we've learned from Star Trek. If we've learned anything from Star Trek, it's that any technical problem can be solved by simply reversing the polarity.
    • by q4Fry ( 1322209 )

      I immediately assumed from the summary that he was talking about Facebook's (initial) opacity to political advertisement requirements, but perhaps that reflects more on me than on Bill Gates. After scanning the comments, it sounds like everyone else thinks he means encryption.

  • What's the problem with trillion dollar tech companies, Bill? Well, obviously not monopolistic nor oligopolistic behavior. Nor selling our profiles to anyone with money. Nor buying and selling government officials to get the money and laws they need. Nor pushing policy towards increasing inequality, autocracy, and legal invasion. Nor building advanced weaponry so we can wipe out villages and cities around the world. Nor cooperating with our spy agencies, who now know everything about us. Nor profiting from

  • Plagued it how? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Tuesday February 13, 2018 @02:34PM (#56117053) Homepage Journal

    they risk the kind of nightmarish government intervention that once plagued his Microsoft

    It was found that Microsoft violated a de facto monopoly position [justice.gov], and they got off with a handslap [newsweek.com]. "Plagued" is not the right word here, unless you want to say that we were plagued by Microsoft, as it has been said [google.com] that Microsoft set back computing significantly [qz.com].

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Either Bill Gates really used the word "plagued", which would show he still does not understand how he was wrong. A common affliction amongst criminals.
      Or he did not use the word "plagued" and its is only part of the editorial introduction of the interview. The word can only be found there, not in any quote, and the article is absolutely crap quality, so I would not rule that out either.

      If you ask me, it is a coin-flip.

      • I guess he doesn't understand plague, or else he'd spend a fuckload more per year on fighting preventable diseases. Sure, he spends hundreds of millions at it (maybe low billions) but he should be Seal Team 6ing most of these diseases. He should not be as rich or richer a decade after retirement if he's fucking doing it right. He can warm himself for the rest of his life burning cash for heat. If spending billions and billions is bad in some way, that is a case to prevent such accumulation of cash in th
  • Unless we forget, Embrace Extend Extinguish. Also, some of the "contract" that required paying M$ for every "PC" sold - even if it didn't ship with Windows. I know a company that got around it by selling a rack-mount computer as a "network appliance" running Linux to get around it. You could easily install Windows on it, but there was absolutely no info on the the company web site about ever being able to do that. Abuses against other browser (notably Firefox) products. Yeah, I'd say they pretty much invite

  • by rainer_d ( 115765 ) on Tuesday February 13, 2018 @02:59PM (#56117235) Homepage

    The courts are secret, the decisions are secret, the evidence is secret, the verdicts are secret. And no jury.

    Lawmakers however would like you to think, that copyright-violations are bringing our countries to their knees and threatening their foundations.

  • or the French will do it for you
    Anyone remember the Key Escrow crap?
    It did not end because Demos or Republican'ts didn't want it.
    It ended when PGP hit the market from France proof against casual gov't spying.
    • PGP from France? You might want to rewrite the Wikipedia page, they seem to think PGP came from the famous Phil Zimmerman (American?) and doesn't mention France anywhere. The only thing I can think of how France is related, is that they are famous for bribing and surveilling commercial activities for their financial benefit. It's where the US learned "they're doing it, so should we".
  • by King_TJ ( 85913 ) on Tuesday February 13, 2018 @04:27PM (#56117841) Journal

    I remember many years ago, when the antitrust litigation was just winding down against Microsoft ... one of my best friends said to me, "Have you noticed how it seems like the government really got to Bill Gates? The comments he's making suddenly all sound like exactly what they told him to say. I wonder if this was part of the settlement with them?"

    At the time, I thought that was somewhat insightful -- but perhaps a bit too "tin foil hat". As time has gone on though, I'm thinking he was right on the money.

    If you look at the statements Bill made before and after the Justice Dept. got ahold of him, it's a night and day difference. And ever since then, he's continued to be pretty much a mouthpiece for Federal government agendas. The latest I've seen him advocating for (after pushing "Common Core" teaching in schools) is "IEPs for all students". Honestly, that would be a horrible idea, considering the current IEP is difficult enough to get teachers and faculty up to speed on and cooperating with, when you have a student with real disabilities or behavioral problems affecting their learning. If everybody had an individualized list of requirements and details on accommodations that would "best suit them", you'd probably double or triple the cost of running public schools. You'd need far more faculty to actually go through all of the IEPs and to implement them for everyone, plus more expense providing all the things they'd ask for like quiet places to take exams by themselves.) It's madness.

    • No, every kid needs some exposure to tech. They might not go into it, but they need to learn shit before they get to the age where they believe in really stupid stuff, like energy crystals and the healing powers of being grounded.
  • "Bill Gates warned Apple and other tech giants that they risk the kind of nightmarish government intervention that once plagued his Microsoft..."

    And MS showed that if you have enough money, nothing bad will happen to you. So, no worries, tech giants.

  • Isn't going to take any advice, not even from one of its own who knows a thing or two about "inviting" the government to clean up up your act for you.

  • One should consider why these companies want stiff regulation. They are big. They own their markets. They can absorb the extra costs and simply pass it along. Small startups cannot absorb the cost or pass it along. So effectively these companies are asking the government to stifle competition from startups. Think about it.
    {^_^}

  • M$ and BillWG seem to have made out okay despite the DOJ's attempts to prosecute them for all of the anti-trust, anti-competitive activity and the piracy they commited to build Windows and Office.
    They showed the rest of tech how to buy your way out of a lawsuit with the DOJ.

    Antitrust is the way that the government promotes markets when there are market failures. It has nothing to do with the idea of free information. - Bill Gates

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